The good news out of Pinal County, AZ is that a 10-year old was not lured into an SUV. The bad news is that news reports claim that a family code word saved her. That is not quite true. In fact, the code word put her in more danger.

A code word sounds like a good idea until you think about it. The problem is that code words encourage the child to engage in conversation with a would-be kidnapper. That buys time for the bad guy to move closer to the child and presents the opportunity to verbally con the child.

A better option is a rule that you do not get into conversations with strangers and you don’t let him within 10-feet of you. You flee if he attempts to get close to you or into a vehicle. This is something you can practice with your child. It’s very much like the game of tag.

Most child abductions are committed by an acquaintance of the child. How hard would it be for a bad guy to convince a 10-year old that he has forgotten the code word? Especially if the child knows the bad guy.

The old adage, don’t talk to strangers is still important and correct advice for children. 

The code word is the opposite of that. It says don’t just talk to the stranger, interview him and then interpret what he says to finally decide if he can be trusted. Most kids are abducted by people they know, even remotely. That makes it even more complex.

Under stress, your child should have one decision, RUN! It’s not safe to give her all of these if and or scenarios.

1. He says the code word and there is no danger.

2. He doesn’t know the word and the child runs off. The run started after the conversation, which makes it more dangerous because of lost time. 

3. He stalls by saying something like, “Your mom told me…what is it??? What’s your dog’s name? Poodles?” As he speaks, the closes the distance on the child.

4. The child runs away as soon as the adult start speaking to her is the safest choice.

The girl in the news story removed herself from the situation, that’s great and that is what saved her, not the code word. 

The code word delayed her exit. Her escape would have been safer and quicker had she NOT played the code word game and just ran away. Why interview a potential bad guy?

She engaged in a Q&A with the potential kidnapper.That conversation should never happen. Don’t interview a stranger. Just run away.

The girl in the news story removed herself from the situation, that’s great and that is what saved her, not the code word. The code word delayed her exit. Her escape would have been safer and quicker had she NOT played the code word game and just ran away. Why interview a potential bad guy?

She engaged in a Q&A with the potential kidnapper. That conversation should never happen. Don’t interview a stranger. Run away.

Distance is the best defense. 

Code words can be helpful. They can work to signal a parent that you need help and are afraid of being overheard. For instance, your teen is at a party that is getting out of hand. A comment like, “Joey is a big Raiders fan.” This signals he’d like you to come and get him.

This is a very different scenario than a stranger approaching a child. For that anti-abduction scenario, run first rather than interviewing a potential kidnapper.

To be clear, of course, I am elated that the girl was not abducted. My point is that the code word just added a layer of complexity to what should have been a fast exit without the code word. 

Here are some excellent anti-abduction videos to share with your family. A code word is not included.

The Official Website of John Graden Author, Speaker, Trainer
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